Awards, Photojournalism, World Photography Organisation, World Press Photo 2017

Amber Bracken wins WPP award in Contemporary Issues category

Morton County Sheriffs - Riot police clear marchers from a secondary road outside a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) worker camp using rubber bullets, pepper spray, tasers and arrests. In other incidents they've employed militarized vehicles, water canons, tear gas and have been accused of using percussion grenades. Image © Amber Bracken, first prize Contemporary Issues – Stories in the 2017 World Press Photos

Morton County Sheriffs - Riot police clear marchers from a secondary road outside a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) worker camp using rubber bullets, pepper spray, tasers and arrests. In other incidents they've employed militarized vehicles, water canons, tear gas and have been accused of using percussion grenades. Image © Amber Bracken, first prize Contemporary Issues – Stories in the 2017 World Press Photos

The Canadian photographer has won the prize for her documentary project, following the demonstrations against the North Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock

Albertan photographer Amber Bracken is the 2017 first prize winner of the World Press Photography award in the Contemporary Issues category.

Bracken, whose work is particularly concerned over the relationship between indigenous communities and the government in Canada and North America, has earned the high profile award for her documentation of the increasingly desperate protests against the North Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock.

“I’ve been compelled by issues of indigenous rights for some time now,” says Bracken. “Especially after Canada’s Idle No More movement. The fallout of colonisation and the ongoing betrayal of treaties is the greatest source of domestic injustice in the western world. ”

Work is life - In camp, every day tasks like cooking and chopping wood are the front line. Here men unload a massive donation of firewood.

Work is life – In camp, every day tasks like cooking and chopping wood are the front line. Here men unload a massive donation of firewood. Image © Amber Bracken

The demonstrations in North Dakota began early last year, where the Standing Rock native Indian tribes and hundreds of others began to protest the construction of a water pipeline that would run from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state, down to south Illinois.

It would cross directly beneath the Mississippi Rivers and cut straight through a number of ancient, sacred burial sites. Just a few weeks ago, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that gave the construction the go ahead.

“I’m not convinced that one image or story can noticeably change the trajectory of a specific situation, except in extremely rare situations. But I do believe there is value in adding to the discourse, eventually reaching a critical mass that does affect change. I am also glad there were so many covering the camps and my hope is that, collectively, the documents can support justice.”

Healers - A man is treated after being pepper sprayed by police. White people have joined the camps in large numbers, often standing in front of indigenous protestors to shield them with their bodies. A man is treated with milk of magnesia after being pepper sprayed at the police blockade on highway 1806 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 20, 2016. Many people were injured when, with temperatures below freezing, police deployed water canons, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades. Amber Bracken

Healers – A man is treated after being pepper sprayed by police. White people have joined the camps in large numbers, often standing in front of indigenous protestors to shield them with their bodies.
A man is treated with milk of magnesia after being pepper sprayed at the police blockade on highway 1806 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Sunday, November 20, 2016. Many people were injured when, with temperatures below freezing, police deployed water canons, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades. Image © Amber Bracken

Having done extensive work for a number of news agencies, including The Globe and Mail, Reuters and Canadian Geographic, Bracken was able to distance herself from the action and work solely as a journalist. This particular series was capture over five weeks, spread over three visits.

One trip she made was independent, but another was for BuzzFeed News who gave her her first assignment last year.

Oceti Sakowin - Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires, is the true name of the great Sioux nation and refers to the coming together of the different factions of the tribe. Oglala, Cheyenne, Ut, Cree, Hopi and non-indigenous all are among the 200+ tribes represented in the camps and on the front lines. The last time there was a similar gathering was before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876. Jesse Jaso, 12, enters the Unity Teepee, at the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannonball, ND on Saturday, September 10, 2016. The teepee is signed by camp supporters from all over North America and around the world. Amber Bracken for Buzzfeed News

Oceti Sakowin – Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires, is the true name of the great Sioux nation and refers to the coming together of the different factions of the tribe. Oglala, Cheyenne, Ut, Cree, Hopi and non-indigenous all are among the 200+ tribes represented in the camps and on the front lines. The last time there was a similar gathering was before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876.
Jesse Jaso, 12, enters the Unity Teepee, at the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannonball, ND on Saturday, September 10, 2016. The teepee is signed by camp supporters from all over North America and around the world. Image © Amber Bracken for Buzzfeed News

“I first worked with BuzzFeed in April of 2016 on a story about suicides on reserve in Canada,” she recalls.

“In that case, the writing was done before I was ever assigned and I knew that it was thorough, balanced, and, most importantly, set the issue in context. They did a fantastic job of presenting the complexity and the injustice while preserving the humanity of the family…So when I wanted to go to Standing Rock, they were one of my first pitches and didn’t let me down.”

“I’m humbled and very excited,” Bracken says on being asked of her reaction to the award.

“The exhibition and general high profile of the World Press platform will be a boost of awareness for Standing Rock water protectors’ unresolved pipeline opposition. I’ll be watching to see what happens with the February 22 Army Corp of Engineer’s deadline for people to clear out of camp.”

MAY 2017 ISSUE:

Female Gaze: New perspectives from the selfie generation. Charlotte Jansen considers a new generation of female photographers who make women their subject.

It’s available to order online now.

THE BJP SHOP | APP STORE | SUBSCRIBE